California Department of Fish and Wildlife

MPA Founding Legislation (MLPA/MMAIA)

In January 2000 the Resources Agency released a report titled "Improving California's System of Marine Managed Areas". The culmination of an 18-month process involving 11 state agencies and substantial public input, the report contains recommendations for a simplified classification system for state marine managed areas (MMAs). Marine protected areas are a subset of MMAs; MPAs include state marine reserves, state marine parks, and state marine conservation areas. Some MMAs (state marine cultural preservation areas and state marine water quality areas) were not addressed as part of the MLPA process.

The following six classifications for designating managed areas in the marine and estuarine environments were established in Public Resources Code, Section 36700. These became effective January 1, 2002 and replace the 18 classifications which were previously used to categorize state MMAs. Where the term "marine" is used, it refers to both marine and estuarine environments.

There are different marine managed areas classifications used in California’s MPA network. This includes three MPA designations (State Marine Reserve, State Marine Conservation Area, State Marine Park), a marine recreational management area (State Marine Recreational Management Area), and special closures:

  • In a state marine reserve, it is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living geological, or cultural marine resource, except under a permit or specific authorization from the managing agency for research, restoration, or monitoring purposes. While, to the extent feasible, the area shall be open to the public for managed enjoyment and study, the area shall be maintained to the extent practicable in an undisturbed and unpolluted state. Access and use for activities including, but not limited to, walking, swimming, boating, and diving may be restricted to protect marine resources. Research, restoration, and monitoring may be permitted by the managing agency. Educational activities and other forms of nonconsumptive human use may be permitted by the designating entity or managing agency in a manner consistent with the protection of all marine resources. (PRC Section 36710(a))
  • In a state marine park, it is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living or nonliving marine resource for commercial exploitation purposes. Any human use that would compromise protection of the species of interest, natural community or habitat, or geological, cultural, or recreational features, may be restricted by the designating entity or managing agency. All other uses are allowed, including scientific collection with a permit, research, monitoring, and public recreation, including recreational harvest, unless otherwise restricted. Public use, enjoyment, and education are encouraged, in a manner consistent with protecting resource values. (PRC Section 36710(b))
  • In a state marine conservation area, it is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource for commercial or recreational purposes, or a combination of commercial and recreational purposes, that the designating entity or managing agency determines would compromise protection of the species of interest, natural community, habitat, or geological features. The designating entity or managing agency may permit research, education, and recreational activities, and certain commercial and recreational harvest of marine resources. (PRC Section 36710(c))
  • In a state marine recreational management area, it is unlawful to perform any activity that, as determined by the designating entity or managing agency, would compromise the recreational values for which the area may be designated. Recreational opportunities may be protected, enhanced, or restricted, while preserving basic resource values of the area. No other use is restricted. (PRC Section 36710(e)). The Fish and Game Commission may designate, delete, or modify state marine recreational management areas for hunting purposes. (PRC Section 36725(a))
  • A special closure is a geographically specific area that prohibits human entry. Special closures are smaller in size than MPAs and are designed to protect breeding seabird and marine mammal populations from human disturbance.